Men’s lacrosse to battle with top-ranked Loyola

No. 1/3 Loyola University-Maryland will host the Boston University men’s lacrosse team Saturday afternoon in Baltimore.

The Greyhounds (10-1, 6-0 Patriot League) are in first place in the Patriot League and remain unbeaten in conference play. Loyola has been especially excellent as of late, and it will attempt to extend its 10-game winning streak  when they take on the Terriers (1-10, 1-5 Patriot League).

Loyola is coming off one of its most thrilling games of the season, a 7-6 double-overtime win at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The contest remained close throughout, with neither team managing to get more than a two-goal lead at any point. The Greyhounds finally grabbed the win when senior Brian Schultz converted on an assist from senior Justin Ward with 3:48 remaining in the second overtime period.

The Greyhounds were lifted by the play of Ward and freshman Brian Sherlock during the win. Ward recorded a goal and three assists, while Sherlock scored twice.

Ward is having an outstanding season in his final year, leading the Patriot League with 3.27 assists per game. His assist total, 36, is twice as much as the next highest total in the category. Moreover, his assist average ranks third in the entire country. The co-captain of the Greyhounds also leads the conference and is ninth in the nation in points with 4.36 per game.

Attack Nikko Pontrello is also in the middle of a dominant season Loyola. The junior is second in the nation in goals, averaging 3.36 per game. He leads the conference with that mark and is also second to Ward in the conference in points with 3.91 per game.

The Greyhounds as a whole are fifth in the NCAA in scoring offense, scoring 13.09 goals per game, and are fourth in defense, only allowing 7.27 goals per game.

In many aspects, it will be the Terriers’ toughest challenge of the season, and may be tougher given the questionable status of freshman goalkeeper Christian Carson-Banister.

Carson-Banister leads the Patriot League and is 14th in the nation in saves, stopping 11.20 shots per game.

“Christian will be a game-time decision,” said BU coach Ryan Polley.

BU had to manage without Carson-Banister in its last game, a 14-9 loss against No. 17 Harvard University Tuesday night.

Polley went to backup goalkeeper freshman Tyler Zickel to make his first collegiate start. The difference was apparent, as the 14 allowed goals was the highest mark the Terriers had given up since its first game of the season.

The Crimson (7-4) held a steady lead throughout the game, as senior Peter Schwartz guided his team to the victory with three goals and two assists.

Yet BU showed improvements on offense, as hat tricks from freshman attacks Ryan Johnston and Sam Tenney gave the Terriers nine goals.

“Harvard’s a really good team and they have a great offense,” Polley said. “We have to learn how to compete against these really exceptional teams, these ranked teams.

“We have to be a little bit more efficient with the ball. I would say we took a step back last night as far as our overall play went.”

Turnovers have been a problem for BU all season and the team leads the conference in turnovers committed with 19.55 per game.

The Greyhounds sit on the other end of the spectrum, as no team has committed fewer turnovers in the Patriot League (10.27 per game).

“We’re worrying about ourselves right now,” Polley said. “Obviously Loyola, they’re great. They’re the number one team in our conference. They’re a great team, but right now, we have some things we need to address on our front.

“Today our focus has been on us and trying to fix some things. We’ve been really focusing on valuing the ball and protecting the ball.”

Polley said he is looking forward to the challenges ahead with BU’s tough remaining schedule.

“In our last three games, we have [Loyola] and [No. 1/2 Duke University],” Polley said. “It will be good to see the best out there. We’ve played some top-20 teams and been more competitive and had a chance in the end against some of them. We’re going to see what the very best is and how far we have to go to get there.”

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